Time-dependent corticosteroid modulation of prefrontal working memory processing
SourceProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 108, 14, (2011), pp. 5801-6
Article / Letter to editor
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Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA
Subject130 000 Cognitive Neurology & Memory; 130 028 Probing the mechanistic underpinnings of stress-related memories; DCN 2: Functional Neurogenomics
Corticosteroids are potent modulators of human higher cognitive function. They are released in response to stress, and are thought to be involved in the modulation of cognitive function by inducing distinct rapid nongenomic, and slow genomic changes, affecting neural plasticity throughout the brain. However, their exact effects on the neural correlates of higher-order cognitive function as performed by the prefrontal cortex at the human brain system level remain to be elucidated. Here, we targeted these time-dependent effects of corticosteroids on prefrontal cortex processing in humans using a working memory (WM) paradigm during functional MRI scanning. Implementing a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, 72 young, healthy men received 10 mg hydrocortisone either 30 min (rapid corticosteroid effects) or 240 min (slow corticosteroid effects), or placebo before a numerical n-back task with differential load (0- to 3-back). Corticosteroids' slow effects appeared to improve working memory performance and increased neuronal activity during WM performance in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex depending on WM load, whereas no effects of corticosteroids' rapid actions were observed. Thereby, the slow actions of corticosteroids seem to facilitate adequate higher-order cognitive functioning, which may support recovery in the aftermath of stress exposure.
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